Mobile Games Localization

Think Global, Act Local

mobile_phone_imageDue to the pace of on-the-go mobile gaming, so-so first impressions or negative reviews can crush apps almost instantly. A recent survey by Ebuyer shows only 40% of 8850 surveyed gamers keep games for over a month and with dozens of games appearing every day, it’s no wonder their attention is tough to earn. Opening the App Store is like teleporting to Times Square – on New Year’s Eve.

In today’s global market, mobile game localization allows an app to speak to gamers across the world and say, ‘‘Hey there, I was created for YOU!’’. Language and culture are huge barriers that need to be passed in order to help games achieve that coveted Top Grossing list. Although acknowledged as a leading world language, English only represents 27% of internet content. This shows the importance of localization, and the gap to be filled by the international gaming community.

A mobile game with no localization threatens to alienate the remaining 73% of gamers who seek a game tailored to their language and culture. Being downloadable, games are more accessible, but also more disposable. Bad localization will undoubtedly earn your game a swift swipe to the mobile trash can. Good localization often goes unnoticed – the aim – but is reflected in strong user satisfaction worldwide, great reviews, and higher numbers of downloads. Localization ensures an instant relationship with a gamer through a sense of familiarity and understanding.

What Makes Mobile Gaming Different?

People tend to play on their portable devices during brief, idle moments in a day; on the subway, having a coffee break, or waiting for a friend. In these short bursts of time, a game must captivate the users’ interest enough for further, repeated play during the next available break.  Progressing to the next level quickly is essential to create a sense of satisfaction, and achievement must be felt within just a few moments of play. Mobile games are traditionally simplified when compared to console games, but even a simpler game will still need simple instructions and layouts to go with it. What may be lacking in terms of quality graphics and expansive maps must be compensated for by ease of play and content! Having said that, with the dawn of tablet gaming and increased mobile technology, mobile games are rapidly catching up with their console ancestors in terms of graphical and audio quality.

What Makes Mobile Game Localization Challenging?

Scenario and setting limitations; your game needs to be introduced simply and quickly in both words and illustrations that are clear. They must be presented in a way that can be understood immediately by each player, from different languages and cultures. They may not necessarily want to read the manual!

Text limitations; you need to instruct the player in just a few words: ‘Position photo. Drag-to-move. Use-slider-to-scale’. The text needs to be simple, concise, and clear in all targeted languages. This includes different alphabets and text styles! Game-speech, and tone also need to be taken into account. Helpful instructions in one language could be offensive in another!

Character limitations; everything has to be formatted for a smaller screen, but with the age of smartphones in full swing – as of July 2013 they represented 90% of global handset sales – many different manufacturers and models are crowding the shelves. All with different interfaces!

Translations from English are on average between 20-30% larger than source text, which can make a huge difference to the interfaces of different users. Problems of adequate space can wreak havoc with GUI, causing games to be held up in production or pulled from the cyber-shelves to fix issues. The pace of the mobile gaming market means this kind of interruption can signal the death-knell for many apps when there is a simple solution.

Limited Context; quite often with new mobile games, there is only a small amount of text to be translated initially; once all localized versions have gone live, it’s all about the updates. Updates often lack context, meaning many translators find it difficult to turn the code into inserted text that the gamer will not find ‘sticky’ and disjointed. Literal translations are rarely the best, for example, ‘START’ – is this a noun or a verb? Context and practical knowledge of the game is essential!

This is where MO Group International comes in…

Translating a game – no matter how small – is not child’s play! You need an experienced multilingual localization company whose localization teams are gaming gurus as much as translators. We work with you from project inception to completion, continuing the localization process while the game continues to develop and grow.

With us you’ll end up with a game that is perfectly localized whilst keeping its original concept and design clear.

MO Group International provides the following services to aid the smooth localization of your mobile and other gaming project(s):

Contact the MO Group International team by clicking here for a free quote.

James Norman, MO Group International

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